Above – Kim Clifton. Cover – Genevieve Muratore & Siobhan Lawless. Photos – Clare Hawley.

At stake, a kidney.

The recipient, a kid, a 12-year-old girl named Autumn. The donor, Isaac, the kid’s father, killer of her mother, Summer.

As he’s been away in stir, there’s no paternal bond, and there is a reluctance to donate his organ. On weekend release accompanied by a chaperone, Burt, he has come to his childhood farm to be persuaded by his mother, Sophia, and his slaughtered spouse’s sister, Violet, to relinquish a lifesaving kidney to be transplanted in his estranged offspring.

The family farm and its surrounds are steeped in folklore. It’s a place where once on harvest moon the local folk made a blood sacrifice to the Grain Mother to ensure health, wealth, happiness and a good crop and harvest. It’s a tradition that traduced Isaac’s future, a pagan ritual that ruined his life.

Rob Drummond’s play, Grain in the Blood, is rooted in the melodrama of sacrifice. It was silly supplication to the idea of sacrifice that caused Isaac to kill the mother of his child and now he is called on to sacrifice a part of his own body to save his daughter. No coincidence that his name is Isaac, the name of the son of Abraham, a none too subtle Biblical allusion. 

A quintet of actors engages to ignite a combustible conflict with Gothic undertones. Kim Clifton is almost spectral as the sickly, swear word spewing Autumn, emanating an ethereal, world-weary presence with an impish spark. Nick Curnow, as prison appointed chaperone, Burt, presents a burly gentle giant, dealing with past employment issues and celebrating his sobriety, sorely tested with the dramatic turn of events confronting him.

Siobhan Lawless as Sophia is solid and pragmatic, indeed grounded, determined and capable of securing the visceral prize by whatever means, quite literally, venal for the renal. Genevieve Muratore has a palpable edginess as the volatile Violet, mired in trauma, repelled by Isaac, attracted to Burt. Ciarán O’Riordan as Isaac, embodies the gaunt, haunted figure, dissipated of body and spirit, a conflicted and confused soul.

Director/ set designer Victor Kalka’s set is simple, rusty rustic in colour, brown non matching kitchen chairs and table on raised weathered floorboards and tufts of wheat adorning the perimeter.

Lighting designer Jasmin Borsovszky serves up a palette of earthy tones and nocturnal shadow and costume designer Lily Mateljan sets up a nice contrast between realistic rural attire of the two adult women and a wardrobe that suggests sacrificial garb for Isaac and Autumn.

Event details

Virginia Plain presents
Grain in the Blood
by Rob Drummond

Director Victor Kalka

Venue: KXT on Broadway | 181 Broadway, Ultimo NSW
Dates: 23 February – 9 March 2024
Tickets: $35 – $45
Bookings: humanitix.com/grain-in-the-blood


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